Beef Stew

Saturday morning has commenced with a headache, a mound of unwashed dishes, and a bunch of bills in the letterbox. I climb into the remaining three items of clean clothing on the premises and visit the bakery for an emergency lattè. Thence the posh supermarket for a plastic bag of ready-to-go casserole vegetables and a plastic bag of braising beef. After ten minutes’ work, they are merrily burbling away in the oven, in my grandest casserole. The flat fills with heavenly smells, which make the morning’s laundering, washing and hoovering pass with less than the expected trauma.

This dish requires one pot and one spoon. Here’s what you need.

  • 500g root vegetables, washed, peeled and chopped, or a bag of same from the supermarket – mine contained swede, onion, carrot and leek
  • 500g stewing steak, chopped into rough cubes
  • a glass of red wine
  • four cloves of garlic, peeled
  • thyme (dried is alright) and a few bay leaves

Fry the meat in a mixture of butter and oil, until browned on the outside, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Set aside, and then fry the veg, adding more fat if necessary. Return the meat, sprinkle with about a tablespoon (15g) of plain flour, and stir like mad. (You could toss the meat in the flour to begin with, but I don’t think it makes much difference.)

Add the wine, and stir like mad, incorporating any flour that’s stuck to the bottom of the pot into the liquid. Cover with boiling water from the jug, and some posh powdered stock, e.g. Marigold Bouillon. Add the garlic, a bay leaf or two, and the thyme. Maybe a tablespoon of tomato paste; more for colour than anything else. On this occasion, I popped in a large dried chilli (not chopped) which I fished out before serving: added a pleasant zing to the proceedings.

In my case, I then pop the lid on and consign the pot to the oven (140ºC, fan forced) for the next two hours. If you have a gas ring you trust, you could instead leave it on the hob, turned down nice and low. The aim is for a gentle simmer, with the occasional bubble lazily erupting on the surface.

After two hours, check the seasoning. The meat should have collapsed by this point, if not, another hour won’t hurt.

Variations

Use Guinness instead of wine.

Use lots of wine – Pomiane mentions a litre – and no stock. (Sans doute un litron de la gros rouge qui tache et pousse au crime.)

Whole baby onions, if you can be motivated to peel them.

Beware of spuds. Baby Charlottes work well, floury potatoes will collapse and turn the whole thing into starchy beef concrete.

Do it with lamb shanks; one per guest. The bones will ooze wonderful things into your stew. (Browning the lamb shanks first is harder work.)

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